Apple reportedly compromised on the accuracy of the iPhone X's Face ID sensor to ramp up production

  • The iPhone X proved to be particularly problematic for Apple and its partners to manufacture.
  • Apple faced a number of problems that apparently prompted it to compromise on the accuracy of Face ID, its new biometric face recognition system, to ramp up production.
  • Many of the issues that are afflicting the first batches should be resolved by early 2018.

Apple told suppliers to reduce the accuracy of the Face ID biometric recognition system in order to ramp up the iPhone X’s production, according to a report from Bloomberg.

The company’s tenth-anniversary device, the iPhone X, has long been rumoured to be in short supply due to the difficulty of production for certain components such as the aforementioned camera system for Face ID as well as the organic light-emitting diode (OLED) panel that covers almost the entire front.

Apple’s quality control is usually to exceedingly high standards, but — Bloomberg says — the immense pressure the company is facing for a successful launch prompted it to quietly revise its original plan.

Rumours suggest that Apple will only have 2 to 3 million units ready for day one (November 3), while backorders will stretch for the entire holiday season with a reported 20 to 30 million total iPhones ready (Apple has far exceeded the 70 million mark for the holiday season in the past), about half of what it originally planned.

Says Bloomberg:

“Despite demanding the near impossible, Apple didn’t add extra time to get it right — giving suppliers the typical two-year lead time. The tight schedule underestimated the complexity of making and assembling exceedingly fragile components, said one of the people familiar with the production process. That left suppliers short on time to prepare their factories and explains why the iPhone X is being released a full six weeks later than the iPhone 8.”

IPhone X TrueDepth Camera SystemAppleThe complex ‘TrueDepth’ camera system, which is made of multiple sensors and thus requires surgical precision for everything to be aligned and work properly.

Fragility of components so small means that precision is key, as “if the microscopic components are off by even several microns, a fraction of a hair’s breadth, the technology might not work properly,” people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg.

The dot projector, a sensor inside the so-called TrueDepth camera system that allows Face ID to work (by projecting over 30,000 invisible point on a user’s face to create an accurate depth map of it), seemed particularly troublesome.

To boost the number of usable dot projectors, Apple apparently “relaxed some of the specifications for Face ID,” and took less time to test finalised units of the module.

Most of the manufacturing related issues, Bloomberg says, should go away as production starts to ramp up some time at the beginning of next year.

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